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Poor communities often face greater exposure to climate hazards, such as more extreme rainfall or drought conditions, and have fewer resources to cope.

By , climate change could drive more than million people globally into extreme poverty. Rising temperatures and unpredictable rainfall caused by climate change are expected to lower crop yields and raise prices. Governments must establish policies to reduce risks up front and manage those risks that are unavoidable.

According to Aqueduct, many African countries face extremely high water risk. This metric considers multiple factors, including vulnerability to droughts and floods, seasonal variability, and water stress. Mechanisms to pool risk between countries are increasingly important.


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ARC establishes a sovereign insurance mechanism: countries pay a premium, and in a drought, payouts normally arrive faster than humanitarian aid. Without ARC, many families would have to sell everything they own to put food on the table. However, insurance is only part of the solution. Governments need to build social safety nets and proactively reduce risks. The first task goes beyond water, but the second can be achieved in part by investing in climate-resilient water systems, such as water storage and irrigation.

Climate-proofing water systems isn't just about pouring concrete into taller flood defenses or bigger dams. Governments and businesses can invest in nature to fill part of the infrastructure gap. Green infrastructure plays a huge role in providing safe, clean and regular water flows — from wetlands that buffer coasts from storms, and aquifers that store water, to forests that reduce erosion and help keep water free of sediment.

Excess sediment from eroding soil has been getting into the river, reducing reservoirs' capacity and increasing water treatment costs. The Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund , a public-private partnership involving the Kenyan government, private companies and The Nature Conservancy, invests upstream to help poor communities adopt farming and forestry practices that improve yields while reducing water use and soil erosion. By integrating nature-based approaches into conventional infrastructure system planning, governments can ensure water supply and quality.

Potential benefits of rehabilitating and maintaining our ecological infrastructure include the following: Ecological infrastructure enhances built infrastructure: Strategic investment in ecological infrastructure lengthens the life of existing built infrastructure and can reduce or delay the need for additional built infrastructure — often with significant cost savings.

Degraded ecological infrastructure increases the vulnerability of built infrastructure to damage during extreme events like floods, and increases maintenance costs.

It may be more cost effective to rehabilitate the ecosystems concerned than to keep repairing or replacing the built infrastructure. Ecological infrastructure supports rural development: Key elements of ecological infrastructure, including mountain catchments and corridors of natural vegetation, are located in rural areas. Rehabilitating and maintaining ecological infrastructure contributes to diversifying rural livelihood options, on one hand through direct job creation, and on the other by strengthening economic sectors such as sustainable farming and ecotourism. Rural communities usually rely directly on ecological infrastructure for goods and services, for example getting their drinking water directly from rivers, and tend to be most immediately and severely affected when ecosystems become degraded.

Ecological infrastructure helps mitigate risk: Well managed ecological infrastructure can buffer human settlements and built infrastructure against extreme events like floods and droughts, playing a crucial and cost-effective role in disaster risk reduction. Across the United States, years of neglect have resulted in crumbling roads, bridges in need of repair, inadequate public transport, outdated school buildings, and other critical infrastructure needs.

See Figure 1 and Table 2 in the Appendix. Other studies have supported and built on the ASCE findings. Department of Education survey.


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These needs vary significantly by state because of differences in size, congestion, and age of existing infrastructure. The ASCE report card also includes information on state infrastructure needs and investment. They own over 90 percent of non-defense public infrastructure assets, [9] and although the federal government assists in the building and maintenance of these assets, state and local governments pay 75 percent of the cost of maintaining and improving them. See Table 1. Not surprisingly, current investment varies significantly by state, based on factors like the size and population density of a state or the age of existing infrastructure.

But some differences result from the willingness of the state to identify and fund needed investments.


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Overall, investments have been declining as needs have risen. Figure 3 shows the portion of total state spending devoted to capital spending in Several large states with small populations — Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming — spent over 15 percent of their budget on capital expenses. At the other end of the spectrum, three states — Michigan, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire — spent less than 7 percent. States pay for public buildings, facilities, roads, and other infrastructure somewhat differently than they fund other types of spending.

For example, they use debt more frequently and often rely on user fees like tolls to fund infrastructure.

Green Infrastructure: Definition and Needs

In addition, the federal government provides grants for roads, transit, and other infrastructure. Borrowing must be repaid and federal grants often require matching funds. There are sound reasons why states and localities borrow to pay for infrastructure, rather than use annual tax collections and other revenues. Public buildings, roads, and bridges are used for decades but entail large upfront costs; borrowing enables the state to spread out those costs. As a result, taxpayers who will use the infrastructure in the future help pay for it, which promotes intergenerational equity.

On average, states finance 27 percent of their capital spending with bond proceeds. Some states, either by law or by tradition, do not usually issue general obligation bonds for infrastructure or other spending. Twenty-two states report that they maintain a formal or informal policy of funding infrastructure on a pay-as-you-go basis, according to a National Association of State Budget Officers NASBO survey.

Bond proceeds make up less than 10 percent of funding for capital projects in 16 states. Taxes and Fees. On average, states finance only a small share 5 percent of infrastructure with general fund taxes typically sales or income taxes not designated for specific purposes. However, this practice varies by state. States that shy away from borrowing for infrastructure projects depend much more heavily on general fund taxes to pay for building and maintaining infrastructure. General fund spending makes up more than 20 percent of funding for capital projects in six states — Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

More typically, the general fund share is small and other state funds make up over a third of funding for capital projects. This includes taxes designated for infrastructure such as gas taxes or user fees like tolls, water and sewer fees, or facility entry fees. The federal government is an active partner with states in building and maintaining infrastructure. States use federal grants to pay for some 28 percent of their infrastructure spending.

The federal government provides grants for road and public transit projects, for utilities, and a host of other capital expenditures.

Water and the green economy | International Decade for Action 'Water for Life'

Public-Private Partnerships. In addition, the private sector sometimes partners with states and localities to jointly fund a needed infrastructure project. Or, in some cases, the private sector builds or maintains a road or a public facility in return for collecting tolls or other user fees associated with the facility.

Any state spending related to public-private partnerships is not identified separately by NASBO in the chart above. And even the new investments in the legislation will be at risk in future years because they are paid for with cuts in other parts of the budget, rather than an increase in the gas tax. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the federal Highway Trust Fund will be insolvent after ; that is, the projected costs will exceed revenue from federal gas and other taxes and interest generated by the fund.

In the s, when the economy was particularly strong, states and localities increased their investments. But this trend ended after the turn of the century, except for a temporary boost fueled by federal infrastructure funding to states and localities from the Recovery Act. Spending by state and local governments on all types of capital fell from 2. Total capital spending as a share of state GDP fell in all but nine states between and , with the largest drops in Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Florida.

But capital spending has not bounced back in these states — or most others — even as the economy has recovered.